Saturday, February 21, 2009

Billions and billions of bytes...

Welcome to T Cat Pictures, Studio B!

(Studio A is on the bar in the livingroom). It's Saturday morning, and now that I have the necessary firewire, I'm ready start downloading Camera 1's tape footage from Unity Games XV., that file size is going up REALLY fast...not even 10 minutes into this and it's at a GIG?...

I was well-aware that we were going to be talking large amounts of space here, but knowing that in theory and doing the quick calculation in my head that yielded approximately 10GB/hour of footage are two different things.

Fortunately, there are great minds on the case here at T Cat Pictures. My brother had the foresight to give me a Cavalry CAXE/CAXM external USB hard drive for Christmas. "If you're making a movie," he said, "you'll be needing a boatload of disk space."

Time to fire up this bad boy, or, to indulge the makers of this device, "Send in the Cavalry!" The packaging doesn't actually say ANYWHERE how big this drive is, so you can imagine I was pretty happy to find out it was a terabyte (1,024GB).

That outta keep me busy for a while.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Video Editing Software

My copy of SONY Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum just arrived last night from Newegg! Now I can throw together that Unity Games montage. Keep an eye out, I'll do it as quickly as possible, I promise.

I'm also getting back to lining up more individual interviews, and planning out a formal shoot schedule. I've been advised to do whatever it takes to attend both major gatherings I need to attend (one in Ohio and of course Spiel, in Germany) this year so as to wrap up production by the end of October, and move into post-production. Is it possible, budget-wise? I'm not sure, but I'd really love to achieve that.

So I've started looking into grants, but that's quite tricky, and requires a formal application process, often with sample clips of your work. Well, I haven't got any of those, so it's a challenge. Further, I don't want to relinquish any artistic control, and this whole charitable foundation aspect, where you need to have a charitable sponsorship accept the money on your behalf for tax purposes...ugh. A few grand would really make things easier on my family, but I may have to do without.

I'm listening to last night's Double Down show over lunchtime, because I missed it last night. I spent an hour trying to put the kids to bed, and they turned it into a game of ping-pong where I was bounced back and forth between their rooms as they took turns getting out of bed. You meddling kids!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Double Down Film Show

Last week I started listening to The Double Down Film Show, which I mention now because the next episode is tonight at 9 PM EST:

The Double Down Film Show is an hour long experience of "real talk" about what it takes to get your project from script to screen and establish a career in film and tv. Hosts Anthony Q. Artis of Down and Dirty DV and Pete Chatmon of Double 7 Film will deliver all of the production, technology, business, and motivational support that filmmakers need to achieve their filmmaking dreams.

Anthony and Pete have both actually offered words of encouragement to me on my project. And I'm discovering, words of encouragement are actually worth their weight in GOLD when you're trying to find time for a project like this, something you're passionate about, and something that utterly flies in the face of your reality and practicality. "Don't stop until you have a final cut." Anthony said. How's that for motivational support? :)

I'm constantly impressed by how open to helping and giving advice the indie film community is turning out to be (Jason Scott, you are my patron saint of documentary). It makes me want to do likewise, so I'm making a point to share every little step, resource and tidbit I learn along the way. Without Jason's "will-do" attitude from the first conversation I had with him, I'd still be thinking about this movie, not filming it. I now wish I'd studied film in college, instead of marine biology. A double major in film and marketing, yes, that would have been the thing to do.

I've been taking the advice in Anthony's Shut up and Shoot book to heart. I really enjoyed the no-nonsense tone of it, and the picture it paints about being a "guerilla film maker." At one point during our Unity Games shoot, I exclaimed to my brother, the camera man, "We've gotta hustle! GET THE SHOT!" We started walking faster, and then I said, "We're actually doing fine, I just wanted to say that..." There's a certain level of the theatrical when you're walking around with cameras and tripods (and business cards that declare you are making a documentary), and I was having fun with the role. Having fun, but getting great footage, mind you.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The next step

This weekend, in between throwing the kids in the tub and doing laundry, I'm re-watching Uber Goober (paying special attention to how it and other geekumentaries open), listening to this week's Double Down Film Show, "20 Filmmaking Lessons We Learned the Hard Way" and reviewing the Unity Games footage from Camera 1.

I went through the footage from Camera 2 last weekend. It is good stuff, but Camera 1 is the camera that was capturing the wireless mic sound for all our interviews, and was also the primary angle view.

The shotgun mic I have for Camera 2 didn't seem to produce thrilling sound quality, but I have to go back and check out the footage in an actual editing program vs. just on the camera.

I'm quite pleased with the interviews so far. What I really need to do next is put together a quick montage of clips from Unity, set to some kind of hip and open source music, and get that posted to the Facebook group. So that's probably the next step.

Monday, February 9, 2009


On Saturday, February 7, our first big filming opportunity arrived in the form of Unity Games XV. Close to 400 (maybe OVER 400) people attended, and it was a blur, a blast, and amazingly fun!

The saga for me started the night before. Mind racing, not sleeping, one of those deals. I think I got maybe 4 hours tops, when at last the alarm clock went off.

The three of us (me, my husband, Adam, and his fellow War of the Ring addict friend, Chris) got ready, packed all the gear (which consisted of a rather heavy bag of lights, tripods, cameras, and contingency equipment) into the car, and, with Dunkin coffee in hand, were off to Woburn. OBVIOUSLY you can't go on a film shoot without a coffee.

As we pulled into the parking lot around 9:30 AM, I immediately kicked myself for not having the camera in hand and ready to shoot, as a constant trickle of people carrying huge crates of board games to the entrance met our gaze. That is without question establishing footage I will need to shoot at the next Unity. I also forgot my still camera, which wasn't essential, but would have been nice.

We went into the hotel and up to the registration desk. Shortly after, my camera man (aka my brother, John, with a lot more film schooling and experience than me) arrived. Adam and Chris went off to set up...War of the Ring, and John and I scouted the site for good interview locations and such. We met Dave, the owner of the event, and staked out a home base amongst the wall-to-wall stacks of games people had brought to play.

We took some footage of the convention room in general, just the overall crowd and ambiance, and tried to find and introduce ourselves to the number of people I'd corresponded with before this event with the intention of interviewing. We found some of those, and then picked our a likely teaching table where 2 games of Dominion were going on. We wired the instructor for sound, and then began filming the session.

We got about half an hour of that on both cameras. Then we went back to home base, where a couple tables of a game called Crokinole were set up. Hadn't seen that one before, and it looked pretty neat, a large round wooden playing surface where wooden tokens were being slung around like shuffleboard, so we filmed a session of that.

More random shots of games and atmosphere, and before we knew it, it was lunchtime! We ate, and then shifted focus to the 1-on-1 interviews we had as a goal for the day. The original location we'd scouted for interviews near the registration area was now far too active to use, so we found a really beautiful little waiting room near the entrance of the hotel, with a fireplace even, and more importantly, very quiet.

We did our first interview down there, then relocated to the show floor to interview Dave about the event. Because he started these events, we wanted the loud ambient sound and crowd activity all around him for his interview.

We got that, missed a couple of people we were trying to tag between gaming events, and then got a great interview with a whole family of gamers. One aspect I definitely want to include in the film is how great board games are for connecting with your kids, as a family activity. Good stuff.

We went back down to our "quiet" interview room, and, noticing that we only had a couple hours left, started beating the bushes to get people down there for their interviews. We got 3 more, including Derk, the co-creator of Board Game Geek, and Greg, a self-publishing designer of games. Really REALLY good stuff.

While I personally think board gaming is a fabulously photogenic hobby that obviously deserves a documentary, things aren't that simple. You ideally need a storyline to make the film interesting. We'd gone to Unity with the goal of just getting our feet wet, meeting people, getting general interviews (our questions list was pretty generic), sort of starting the conversation about board gaming, and seeing where it led. I'm not positive just yet, but I think I've hit on what I want that theme to be.

Suddenly the clock struck 6, and it was time to go. I hated to leave with so much yet to do, but like I said, 16 hours probably would have had me feeling the same way. I've quickly learned that filming expands to occupy whatever time you have available. All in all, it was a phenomenal kick-off for the project, I met dozens of really great people (the entire room was filled with happy friendly gamers) and I can't wait for the next opportunity.

Now, to start going through all that footage and see what we've got...

You can see pictures from the event here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Beaten to the punch

Awwww, maaaaan! It seems Universal Studios has beaten me to the finish line with a board game documentary!

Finally… ‘Candy Land’ The Movie!

or not...

TGIF, the business cards arrived this morning, in the nick of time! See some of you tomorrow at Unity XV!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Last Friday, I ordered business cards for the project. They aren't hella customized, but this site had a couple templates I really liked, and I'm very happy with the way they turned out. In some ways it seems presumptuous, but on the other hand, it's important to be able to get information quickly and easily to interested parties at Unity Games XV this Saturday.

Can it be happening so soon? I spent some time experimenting with equipment setup, but not enough, so that means some late nights this week doing the same. My patron saint of documentary lent me some really key items that will make things a lot easier, but at the same time, new equipment means a new learning curve.

There are a million other things to do between now and then, like get gaffer's tape, and release forms, and an outline of the interview schedule (I get the feeling you can't "over-plan" this stuff) but I'm looking forward to it! Let's rock and roll.